Lent and Love

I was in downtown Chicago today, and I wanted to start my day with ashes. Not flowers, chocolate, or heart-filled cards. Ashes.

I checked the schedule at Old St Pat’s Church and saw that they were going to distribute ashes at Union Station from 7:30-9:30am. Cool, I thought.

Being from the southside, I only know the LaSalle Street and South Shore Train stations in Chicago. I logged into Google Maps and ventured on my walk toward Canal and Jackson.

As I entered into the gorgeous, nearly 100-year-old train depot, I had flashbacks of our trip to Ellis Island in New York. The massive open space holds such promise for those arriving for work, job interviews, jaunts to the big city, visits with friends, explorations through museums, walks along spectacular Lake Michigan.

The difference is that these travelers aren’t leaving their families, homes, and roots forever. Well, maybe some of them are.

People hustled in and out of deep tunnels and glass doors while I roamed and marveled and sought out somebody in a black and white collar with an urn. No luck.

I opted for 12:10 mass at Old St Pat’s. The Broadway-esk cantor moved me as she sang about how our shared journey makes us one. Father Pat Mc Grath hit the homily out of the park, and I was left sobbing at the final hymn asking God to take me as I am, monkey mind and all. I wonder if God caught me admiring haircuts as women returned from Communion.

Mass. Ash Wednesday mass. Reminders of who we are plastered on our foreheads. I really am dust. Dust thinking about my next hairdo.

The homily was about how Lent is a time to pause, and Father drew parallels between our Covid experiences of loss and gain and the collective pause many Christians take in the next 40 days.

Lent – prayer, alms giving, sacrifice – all on Valentine’s Day, all in the name of Love.

Father McGrath reflected on how during Covid, the priests would linger with each other in the evenings, grateful for human connection during a time of isolation. I am not so hot at lingering. I’m afraid of wasting people’s time. I usually do what I’m supposed to do and scram.

Linger. Stay with that feeling – to linger. My imagination went to moments with my grandchildren when I just want to linger, to stroke their faces and be with them. When I want to linger over dinner with Tim. I don’t want the evening to end, so I order dessert. Or I linger by my car with a friend after a walk in the Dunes because I don’t want our time to end. I linger over passages in a novel, or scripture, or poetry, or songs.

I’m going to linger more this Lent. I want to soak it in – the love, the learning, the feeling, the epiphany – like a hoarder, but not like a hoarder because I want to give it away.

I struggle with this. I want to listen really really hard, feel it, grasp it, hold it, write it (when I can hang on to it long enough), share it.

I walked back from church, lingering in the big city life, the architecture, the amazing creativity, the engineering feats of criss-crossed highways, the old and new bridges, the people – everywhere.

I thought about lingering in love, not shying away from it, not ducking out when someone’s compassion feels like too much to bear, someone’s depth of beauty too deep to grasp – to stay with it. Maybe then it will build inside of me and spill out somewhere and remind us that we are not alone.

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